Griggs reports finds existing regulatory regime ‘does not work’.
An independent review of rules for Scotland’s aquaculture sector has claimed the industry is plagued by “mistrust, dislike, and vitriol” amongst stakeholders that is “unhelpful” and called for regulation to be streamlined.
Professor Russel Griggs, who was appointed to lead an independent review of farmed fish, shellfish and seaweed in August, admitted the clashes between operators, environmentalists and policy makers were “at a level that I have never seen before”, as he published his review of the aquaculture regulatory process in Scotland.
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon called for the report, highlighting the fact that the sector was a significant contributor the rural economy but that the regulatory landscape was “contentious” and in need of improvement.
Professor Griggs, who has also chaired the Scottish Government’s regulatory review group which aims to improve regulation in Scotland, set out a number recommendations to make processes involved “more effective and efficient”.
But he was unflinching in identifying the conflicts facing the sector.
He wrote: “The level of mistrust in the finfish (salmon and trout) sector is such that there are those in the industry who believe officials within some regulators and government bodies have on occasion been actively briefing and supplying information against the industry to those that would seek to close it down completely.”
“The converse to this are the accusations from some environmental groups that the Scottish Government and regulators are ‘green washing’ or ‘in bed’ with the industry.”
He added: “I make no judgement on whether either is true but these beliefs have driven relationships and mistrust to a level that is not just unusual but unhelpful as well.”
The report highlighted that Scottish salmon is the UK’s biggest food export, and supports 12,000 jobs in Scotland.
It set out a proposal for a single consent document and for the development of separate frameworks for fish, shellfish and seaweed farms.
‘Vision for Aquaculture’
It identified Shetland as a location for a project pilot as the Scottish Government prepares its own its own Vision for Aquaculture, “which all else for the sector should develop from”, the report added.
Fish farmers have welcomed an independent report into the sector as a “blue print for change”.
Chief executive of the fish farm sector trade body Salmon Scotland, Tavish Scott, said the report could make Scotland a “world leader in regulating the blue economy”.
In a statement he said: “The Scottish Government now has a blueprint for change that can make Scotland a world leader in regulating the blue economy.
“Scotland’s salmon sector and the 10,000 people we support, are grateful to Professor Russel Griggs for his independent review.
Existing regulatory regime
“The Scottish Government are to be congratulated for commissioning this work – an assessment of the existing regulatory regime which as the report states, does not work”
“The challenge we embrace, is to implement the review’s recommendations.
“We will work with government and stakeholders to build an aquaculture regulatory framework that is better, efficient and more transparent than before: One that delivers the right balance between the environment, the economy and the social licence of fish farming.
“Russel Griggs has given all those involved in a £1billion Scottish success story a routemap to becoming internationally competitive in delivering protein for the domestic market and overseas.
“We urge the Scottish Government to grasp this opportunity.”